When the NYC Department of City Planning released its Geography of Jobs Report last month, one thing was immediately clear: Westchester’s economic growth is being hampered in part by factors related to housing. While joblessness is on the decline across the state, a dearth of transit-oriented real estate is continuing to hold back the New York City metro area’s growth, the report notes.
“The report finds that New York City [metro] is adding jobs at double the national rate…but inadequate housing production hasn’t kept pace with rising jobs, limiting overall growth,” explains William Cuddy, Westchester County Association Smart Growth Initiative Chair and CBRE Senior Vice President. “As a result, the NYC metro area has had a growth rate of approximately .9% since 2008, which is slower on average than Boston, Miami, San Francisco, Seattle, and Dallas. The imbalance between new jobs and new housing is especially apparent in NYC’s five boroughs and has helped drive roughly 100,000 people to the suburban tristate region each year between 2012 and 2016. This is a critical time for Westchester to capitalize on market demand to maximize growth and enhance the overall economic vitality of the county.”
One bright spot is transit oriented and mixed-use housing, which Cuddy notes are on the rise. “In basic terms, multi-family rentals are outperforming the general housing market. This is result of several factors, among them the new federal tax law capping state and local property tax [SALT] deductions at $10,000 and the impact it has had on home values, particularly at the high-end,” he says. “The changing landscape is causing would-be homebuyers to consider renting and boosting the market for multi-family developments. These developments are seeing unprecedented growth across the region supported by robust capital availability and an almost insatiable demand for inventory.”
According to Cuddy, it is imperative that these projects be supported at the citizen level in order to empower municipal leaders to effect change. “Westchester, with a low unemployment rate and a significant portion of its population commuting to Manhattan, needs more diverse housing stock for the county to grow and thrive,” says Cuddy. “These projects are fundamental to overall economic development. Not in just the jobs created around construction and ongoing operations, but these developments attract residents who are also consumers and active members of the community. They have a direct impact on the economic performance of Westchester. It’s fairly simple: more workers, more shoppers, and more diners at restaurants drive economic performance.”
One way in which the WCA hopes to kick-start this economic expansion is their Policy Playbook, which the WCA and the Pace Land Use Law Center created “to design and deploy land use policies to improve the planning and approval processes across municipalities in the county,” explains Cuddy. “Streamlining the planning and entitlement process and modernizing outdated regulations is especially critical to advancing the housing demands in Westchester, particularly at transit-oriented, mixed-use, and multi-family projects. The Playbook seeks to eliminate obstacles and regulatory uncertainty to foster vibrant suburban downtown environments.”
Ahead, the WCA plans to continue to advocate for smart development in real estate and housing by encouraging interplay between the region’s top leaders from both private and public sectors. “The WCA leadership tasked with addressing these issues includes the most active and professional developers, land planners, architects, land-use attorneys, bankers, brokers, and other planning consultants in the region,” adds Cuddy. “With our collaboration with Pace Law School we have a dynamic platform to drive economic development.”
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